Music class outside

Center for Young Children (CYC)

Faculty and Staff

Jennifer Smallwood-Holmes Headshot

Jennifer Smallwood-Holmes

Jennifer Smallwood-Holmes has a Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership from Indiana Wesleyan University, an M.S. in Early Childhood Leadership from Bank Street College of Education, and a B.A. in Early Childhood Education from Hood College. Dr. Smallwood-Holmes' dissertation research was focused on the role of leadership behaviors on teacher's perceptions of psychosocial safety climate in early childhood programs.

Dr. Smallwood-Holmes has over 25 years of experience in the field of early childhood education, and has served as a preschool and kindergarten teacher, including eight years at the CYC in the Red and Blue Rooms. She has taught early childhood courses at the University of Maryland, College Park, at Prince George's Community College, and at Ivy Tech State Community College in Indiana. Dr. Smallwood-Holmes regularly presents at local, national, and international conferences on topics related to early childhood education and leadership.

Dr. Smallwood-Holmes' role is to oversee operations at the Center for Young Children and to collaborate closely with the researchers who utilize the CYC to further research on human development. Dr. Smallwood-Holmes acts as the center's liaison between the CYC and the Department of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology.


Anne Daniel

Anne Daniel
Assistant Director

Anne Daniel has a B.A. in Elementary Education from the College of William and Mary, and a M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education from the University of Maryland. Extensive coursework beyond the master's level taken at both the University of Maryland and Shenandoah University in Virginia has focused upon the field of children's literature.

Mrs. Daniel began her work at the Center for Young Children in 1976 as the lead teacher in a mixed-age group of preschoolers and continued in that role through 1979. After being home with her own two sons, she returned to the CYC as its kindergarten teacher in 1986. She continued in that capacity until 1992 when she became Assistant Director. Work experience prior to coming to the CYC includes teaching first grade in rural Virginia. She has taught both undergraduate and graduate children's literature courses and workshops at Trinity College in Washington, D.C., and she taught the early childhood children's literature course at the University of Maryland for 17 years.

Mrs. Daniel served as the early childhood representative to the National Gallery of Art's charter Teacher Advisory Board which consults with the Gallery regarding its education programs and school outreach efforts. She has co-authored early childhood curriculum guides focusing upon career awareness, fire safety and burn prevention, and computer issues. Mrs. Daniel, head of student employment at the CYC, has been honored as the University's "Employer of the Year" for her work with student employees. Ms. Daniel was nominated for the University's Parent Organization's "Faculty of the Year" award in 2001. In 2005, she was honored as a Phillip Merrill Presidential Scholar "Mentor Teacher".

Ms. Daniel manages the  state licensing and national accreditation processes for the CYC, but her first love is having the opportunity to grow the CYC library and see the community share in the enjoyment of great literature through our Lending Library and Families Read programs!

Leslie Oppenheimer Headshot

Leslie Oppenheimer
Curriculum/Enrollment Coordinator

Leslie Oppenheimer has a Bachelor of Arts  in Elementary and Special Education from Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island, and a Masters in Education  in Early Childhood Education from the University of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina.

Ms. Oppenheimer has over thirty years of teaching and administrative experience. She has taught preschool (three and four year olds) and kindergarten at an Independent School. In addition, she has held various Special Education positions-- Learning Disabilities Resource Teacher for Charleston County Public Schools, Early Childhood Special Education lead teacher for Easter Seals/Disabilities Board of Charleston County, and Inclusion Specialist for the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. She has been a member of the Early Childhood Faculty at the College of Education at the University of Maryland, where she taught an undergraduate education course (EDHD 220) from 2001-2006.

Ms. Oppenheimer has been at the Center for Young Children since 1999. She taught in the Green Room for six years and the Purple Room for one year before taking on an administrative role as the Curriculum Coordinator. Currently she shares the enrollment process from initial inquiry to full admission with the CYC's Program Coordinator, Jennifer Haislip. She also shares responsibility for the day-to-day operations of the CYC with the Assistant Director, Mrs. Anne Daniel. 

Ms. Oppenheimer has presented at local and national (NAEYC) professional conferences on topics in early childhood literacy, math, and curriculum. Most recently Ms. Oppenheimer has served as a conference proposal reviewer for NAEYC and for the Council for Exceptional Children Division of Early Childhood(CEC-DEC).


Jennifer Haislip Headshot

Jennifer Haislip
Program Administrative Specialist

Jennifer Haislip has been at the Center for Young Children since 2001.  In her official supporting role, Mrs. Haislip is responsible for assisting Leslie Oppenheimer with the admissions, enrollment and scholarship processes.  She manages the flow of student observers through the Center, often scheduling hundreds of appointments per semester.  She handles the tuition billing process, and fields parent inquiries and special requests of every kind.

Mrs. Haislip is a native of the College Park area, and has held positions in several departments on campus, including Athletics, Chemical Engineering and Family Studies (now Family Science).  She is the mom of two boys, both of whom have attended the Center, and this has solidified her status as a lifelong fan of the CYC and its talented faculty.

Mixed-Age Preschool, 3-5 year olds

Red Room:


Sarah Hart Headshot

Sarah Baker

Sarah Baker graduated from the University of Maryland with a B.S. in Early Childhood Education in 2015. She completed her year-long internship in a Montgomery County Public School and in the Orange Room at CYC. Beginning in the Fall of 2012, Ms. Baker volunteered at the Children’s Developmental Clinic at Prince George’s Community College and University of Maryland locations, where she worked one-on-one with children with special needs. Ms. Baker began teaching at CYC in 2015, spending time in the Orange and Red Rooms.



Photo of Mary McKnight outdoors

Mary McKnight

Mary McKnight is excited to be co-teaching in the Red Room. She did her 4-year-old and kindergarten student teaching at the CYC in 1985. She taught for 29 years in Howard County Public Schools including opening the first fully inclusive kindergarten in the county. In addition to teaching, Mary is a writer and has her debut book coming out in December 2024 through Simon & Schuster. Her amazing 22-year-old daughter is doing her Post BACC year at UMD. Mary loves to garden and paint with watercolors. 


Orange Room:


Image of Alison Hurst in front of greenery

Alison Hurst

Alison Hurst graduated from James Madison University in 2007 with a B.S. in Early Childhood Education. She worked for 2 years as a Kindergarten teacher in Fairfax County before moving to CYC. Mrs. Hurst has been at the CYC since 2012 spending time in the Blue, Yellow, and Orange Rooms. She has also worked as a Summer Camp teacher and has co-directed the camp since 2019.


Antoniette Smalls Headshot

Toni Smalls 

Toni Smalls, pronouns she/her, graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2019. She graduated with her B.S. in Early Childhood Education and Special Education. She started as a student aide at the CYC, has taught as a summer camp teacher, and is starting her third year as a Preschool Teacher in the Orange Room. She is looking forward to another year at the CYC! 



Yellow Room:

Cici Fowler

Cici Fowler

Cici Fowler has been at the CYC since 2003. She attended the University of Maryland and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. She has student-taught in various public schools in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. Mrs. Fowler has also taught nine years of summer camp at the CYC. In 2009, at the NAEYC conference in Anaheim, California, she presented an in-depth recycling study conducted in the Green Room. In 2010, she presented a painting study at the Orlando, Florida, NAEYC conference. Her children are all alumni of CYC.


Katie McAlister

Katie McAllister 

Katie McAllister graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2018. She graduated with her bachelor’s degree in Family Science. This will be Katie's sixth year at CYC! Katie started working as an intern and later became a student aid, and then as an in-house substitute teacher. This year will be her third year as a classroom teacher and she is looking forward to a new school year in the Yellow Room!


Green Room:

Taylor Guevara headshot

Taylor Guevara

Taylor Guevara graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology. She is currently pursuing her Master of Arts in Teaching degree with a focus on Early Childhood and Special Education from Bowie State University. Mrs. Guevara (formerly Ms. Bendlin) worked as an aide in the Red and Yellow rooms from 2016-2020 and is excited to be back as a teacher in the Green Room!


Michelle Slough

Michelle Slough

Michelle Slough has been teaching at the CYC since 2016. She graduated from the University of Maryland in 2016 with a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education. She recently received her Master’s degree in Teacher Leadership with an emphasis on Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. She is excited to be in the Green Room this year!



Blue Room Kindergarten:

Danielle Miller Headshot

Danielle Miller

Danielle Miller holds a B.S. degree in elementary education and a M.Ed. in teacher leadership from the University of Maryland. She has been teaching kindergarten at the CYC since 2015. Previously, Danielle taught 7 years in Montgomery County Public Schools. She taught second grade for 6 years and middle school for one year while at MCPS. Danielle is a Maryland Child Care Credentialed Teacher at Level 6. Danielle cannot wait to meet the new children coming to the Blue Room and looks forward to another fantastic year of learning!


Amy Laakso

Amy Laakso

Amy Laakso holds a B.S. in Early Childhood Education and a M.Ed. in Reading Instruction from the University of Maryland.  She is a certified Reading Specialist.  After receiving her undergraduate degree, Ms. Laakso went abroad and taught English for two years in Seoul, South Korea.  During her time in Korea, Ms. Laakso taught students two-years-old through middle school.  She started at the CYC in 2007 as a student aide in the Orange and Green Rooms.  She has since been a classroom teacher for seven CYC Summer Camps and co-director for one.  As part of her Master's program, Ms. Laakso taught a reading intervention camp sponsored by the University of Maryland.  During the camp, she assessed students' reading and writing skills using several assessment tools, as well as worked with students using different interventions based on the results of their assessments. She looks forward to another great year!



Bernadette Daly

Bernadette Daly/Special Educator 
Bernadette Daly graduated from the University of Maryland in 2000 with her BS and in 2002 with her M.Ed. in Early Childhood Special Education. From August, 2000 until July, 2016, she taught in Montgomery County Public Schools as a special educator working with children with disabilities in a variety of settings from birth through second grade, though her heart has always been in preschool. Mrs. Daly joined the Center for Young Children in 2016 as a Special Educator supporting all the classrooms. Bernadette Daly is a Maryland Child Care Credentialed Teacher at Level 6.


Photo of Taylor Robinson outdoors

Taylor Robinson/In-house Substitute Teacher
Taylor Robinson graduated from Bowie State University in May 2019 with her Bachelors of Science in Child and Adolescent Studies. While in school, she worked as a child care aide for two years before receiving a position as a Preschool Teacher at an early learning center. In 2020, she moved on to be a paraprofessional for Prince George’s County Public School Systems and then became a first grade teacher and taught for two years. She is now at the CYC and excited to start her new role as the floater teacher!


Riley Sims/Research Coordinator

Riley Sims graduated from the University of California, Davis in 2017 with a B.A. in psychology and international relations, and in May 2023 obtainer her Ph.D. in Human Development and Quantitative Methology from the University of Maryland, College Park. Her dissertation research centered on children's beliefs about fairness in intergroup contexts. Now, Riley works as the Research Coordinator at the CYC. In this role, she serves as a liaison between research personnel, parents, staff, and students. She is excited to bear witness to the developmental research happening on campus while ensuring that students have a fun, safe, and positive experience participating in research studies. 


Music Teacher

Eric Maring

 Eric Maring

Eric Maring, known as “Mr. M” by the students, is thrilled to have been teaching music at CYC since 2007. He received his M.Ed from the University of Maryland and taught elementary school in Washington, D.C. and Montgomery County before becoming a full time music educator and performer. He has served as a Fulbright teaching fellow and is currently pursuing certification as a music therapist.

New England Dancing Masters published Mr. M's method of teaching early childhood music, Two Little Blackbirds, in 2020. Mr. M has created many videos to share with the children of the Center for Young Children, including two travel videos. Please take the time to enjoy these with your children here: Mr. M's Videos. Visit Mr. M's Web Site.


Mr. M has recorded and produced many CDs with the CYC children singing some of the songs he has taught throughout the year. Here are the covers of many of the CDs with a link to a sample mp3 selection from each.

2016 CYC CD


2016 CD cover

2015 CYC CD

2014 CYC CD

2013 CYC CD

2012 CYC CD

2011 CYC CD

2010 CYC CD

2009 CYC CD